I've been reading around, looking for the origin of the set phrase "There's no disputing matters of taste", and in particular trying to discover who said it first, or at least who popularized it.

My suspicion is it arises from the Latin equivalent "De gustibus non est disputandum", and therefore conjecture that it had to be one of the famous Roman essayists (Horace, Cicero, Juvenal, et al.).

Then again, one of my friends on FaceBook suggested it might be a medieval coinage, which also seems plausible because the syntax is late Latin: the 'est' would either be absent, i.e. "understood," or would follow the participle, in the Roman period.

The earliest reference I can find to it was via the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, was John Minsheu's A Dictionarie in Spanish and English, of 1599! There, the term appeared in its less Roman layout "De gustibus non est disputandum".

Persevering, I found another reference, this time to Minsheu Dial., which I'm guessing refers to his Pleasant and Delightful Dialogues, which is contained in the Dictionarie cited above. If that's true, it suggests more of a Renaissance origin than medieval.

Can anyone take it back further, as certainly Minsheu had to have done?

  • Care in presentation of your question will be repaid by greater attention from the community, and therefore more and higher-quality answers. People simply pass over walls-of-text, and move on to the next question. (It's also more courteous; you're asking us put in a measure of effort in your behalf, so it's only fair that you do the same for us.) – Dan Bron Mar 10 '16 at 19:52
  • I disagree that this is a duplicate, as this question starts off by specifically giving the answer to that other question, and instead seeking an author or at least a time period. That said, this is off-topic because it is about the Latin Lanaguage, not English. There is a Latin SE in beta, I think. – cobaltduck Mar 10 '16 at 20:07
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    @ArtyomLugovoy I personally didn't see or reject your edit, but the short story is that "There's no disputing matters of taste" is the actual phrase, as it is used in English. It's like asking why "Wednesday" isn't spelled "Wendsday", as that would "make more sense" given how it's pronounced. It just isn't. It is correct to spell it "Wednesday" and incorrect to spell it any other way, despite any rules of English phonetics or orthography it appears to conflict with. Similarly, there's one way to write the set phrase "There's no accounting", regardless of any syntax or agreement rules. – Dan Bron Mar 10 '16 at 20:24
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    @ArtyomLugovoy Now, having said all that, I will finally get around to pointing out that it's not the "matters" which the (implicit) is in "there's" is agreeing with, it's the gerund/participle "disputing" (or "accounting", depending on which version you prefer), so the phrase is actually already correct. But the bigger and more important point is even if it were "incorrect" (i.e., in conflict with some other rule), that would not matter. English is not algebra: trying to impose perfect consistency on a natural language is misguided to the point of naivete. – Dan Bron Mar 10 '16 at 20:31
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    Thanks a lot, Dan, for your so detailed explanation which shows that I was completely wrong. Now I've got the meaning of this saying and see that 'there is' agrees with 'disputing' as you said me. So that it means 'There is nothing to argue about in the matters of taste.' And we have the same saying in Russian, btw. Thanks again for your help, I appreciate it very much!!! – Artyom Lugovoy Mar 10 '16 at 21:06

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